Lights Out for Lightning Bugs, June 20-26:
As we approach another summer and the 9th firefly season for the Pennsylvania Firefly Festival, the organizers want to remind the residents and campers in Forest County and the Allegheny National Forest region that we have something unique and precious in our area that deserves our attention, respect and protection. Afterall, the firefly is our State’s official insect. Here’s something simple and easy you can do to help fireflies (aka Lightning Bugs) directly.
This year we are encouraging everyone in Forest County, and for that matter, everywhere in Pennsylvania to take part in the “Lights Out for Lighting Bugs” campaign.
Scientists believe that the world is losing firefly populations, and one reason is simply light pollution. It may not be surprising to imagine that fireflies are especially prone to the impacts of artificial light pollution. However, Tufts University firefly researcher, Avalon Owens, did a study here in Kellettville in 2019 to find out the specific reasons. In a controlled month-long study, she found that the flashing displays of male fireflies were impacted more by certain colors and intensities of light than others. What was even more concerning and compelling was that light of any color essentially shuts down the flashing replies of females to attract her mate. If fireflies are blinded by lights (especially white and amber lights) or their flashes are overpowered by extensive and prolonged light intrusion, they cannot find a mate and thereby, the next generation is lost.
So, help the fireflies and lightning bugs in your yard find each other. Turn off or shade your porch and outside lights, at least for the week of Sunday, June 20 through Saturday June 26. You may even discover you can keep them off through the end of summer, or at least put them on a timer or motion detector, so they don’t burn all night.
illustration by P. Butler, 2021
Light pollution not only impacts fireflies, it also impacts us. There are many studies that suggest our natural sleep/wake cycles are disrupted by the use of artificial lights and screens. Poor sleep leads to more health and wellness issues. So, we need to let our eyes and brains experience more darkness. We need to get more comfortable with and embrace the darkness. Allow yourself to experience a truly dark night this summer. Turn out the lights, sit on your porch or around a dim glowing campfire. Let your eyes adjust and you’ll be amazed by what you can see. You may even see a spectacular firefly show.